In a very timely investigative report, Channel 2 investigative reporter, Pam Zekman, last week joined forces with the Better Government Association to examine the use of aldermanic “Menu” expenditures-discretionary money that Aldermen use to fund infrastructure improvements in their wards:
Check out Pam Zekman’s story at this link and below:
While I felt the report was a bit unfair to my colleague, who was simply holding the funds in reserve for a new park his community desperately needs, the central point of the story rings true: there is little accountability in how the money is allocated and no requirement for community input. In the words of another one of my colleagues: “You take care of the people who take care of you–you know, the people who voted for you.”
Long before this report, I was addressing this issue head-on. If you’ve been reading my e-mails, you know I’ve put into place a process known as Participatory Budgeting, that gives all 49th Ward residents the right to vote directly on the infrastructure projects funded in our community next year.
The first step in the process began months ago when I called upon over 40 neighborhood leaders to form a Steering Committee to design a Participatory Budgeting process. The process continued last week with the first two Neighborhood Assemblies. Residents in two neighborhood areas met to learn more about Participatory Budgeting and elect representatives who are charged with developing infrastructure spending proposals that will be voted on by all 49th Ward residents next spring.
Seven more Neighborhood Assemblies will be held in the coming weeks.
The next Neighborhood Assembly meets this Monday, November 9th, 7 p.m. for residents who live in the vicinity of Loyola Park (the area bounded by Touhy, Lunt, Clark and the Lake). The meeting will take place at the Loyola Park Fieldhouse, 1230 W. Greenleaf, 2nd Floor.
Residents in other areas of the ward will meet later this month and next.
I strongly urge you to attend the Neighborhood Assembly in your area. However, if that’s not possible, or if you missed the assembly in your area, you are free to attend a Neighborhood Assembly in another area. Most importantly, I urge you to bring your ideas.
FOR A SCHEDULE OF THE NEIGHBORHOOD ASSEMBLY MEETINGS, CLICK HERE or scroll to the bottom of this news item.
FOR A MAP OF THE 49TH WARD THAT DELINEATES THE NEIGHBORHOOD ASSEMBLY AREAS, CLICK HERE or scroll to the bottom of this news item.
I look forward to seeing you in the coming weeks.
TRANSCRIPT OF THE CBS-2/BGA INVESTIGATIVE REPORT, THURSDAY, OCTOBER 29TH AT 10 P.M.
Reporting Pam Zekman
CHICAGO (CBS) – How Do Aldermen Spend Their ‘Piggy Bank’ Money?
Munoz Accused Of Hoarding Funds For Park While Some Residents Demand Improvements
Chicago’s 50 aldermen have a multimillion-dollar piggy bank.
It’s referred to as a “menu” because they use the money to pick and choose improvements for their wards. CBS 2 and the Better Government Association joined forces to see how the money is being spent.
2 Investigator Pam Zekman and the BGA look inside the “Aldermanic Piggy Banks.”
Community activist Raul Montes wants 22nd Ward Ald. Ricardo Munoz to fund blue-light police cameras for dangerous corners.
Why isn’t he doing it?
“That’s a mystery,” Montes said.
Each Chicago alderman gets $1.3 million a year to spend on ward improvements. Records obtained by CBS 2 and the BGA found that a majority of them spend most of the money on improvements such as street lights, speed humps, road resurfacing and blue-light cameras.
But in the last three years, Munoz has only spent about $41,000 — leaving more than $3.85 million just sitting untouched in his fund. Munoz said he has an idea about what the money will be put toward: street improvements around a proposed park in his ward.
“We decided to try and save that money to see if it could be used as a negotiating tactic and tool towards building a new park at 31st and Kedzie,” he said.
The Chicago Park district would have to approve and pay for the $18 million dollar project.
Given that it’s not a done deal, Zekman asked Munoz why he wouldn’t spend some of the money on blue-light cameras in problem areas.
“If it were up to some neighbors, they would want to have a camera on every corner — that’s just not doable,” Munoz said.
But Montes has collected more than 1,000 signatures from residents and business owners like hardware store owner Jose Hernandez.
“It’s a shame that people who have the ability and the money to do things — they don’t do it,” he said.
Andy Shaw, director of the BGA, sides with the frustrated constituents.
“If there’s a big project out there, have the mayor and the city take care of the big project,” Shaw said. “The menu is for the little things that aldermen have to do for their constituents.”
Every year, 50th Ward Ald. Bernard Stone spends all of his menu money, mostly on streetlights to help deter crime. But he admits to one fact of political life.
“You take care of the people who take care of you — you know, the people who voted for you,” he said. “That’s not Chicago politics, that’s Politics 101.”
(© MMIX, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.)
49TH WARD ASSEMBLY SCHEDULE
(see map below for your area)
** All Assemblies meet at 7pm**
Tuesday, Nov. 3rd, St. Margaret Mary Church Activity Center, 7311 N. Claremont (Area B)
Wednesday, Nov. 4th, Pottawattomie Park Fieldhouse, 7340 N. Rogers (Area C)
Monday, Nov. 9th, Loyola Park Fieldhouse, 1230 W. Greenleaf, 2nd Floor (Area F)
Tuesday, Nov. 17th, New Field School, 1707 W. Morse (Area E)
Wednesday, November 18th, St. Jerome’s Parish Center, 1709 W. Lunt (Spanish Language)
Thursday, Nov. 19th, Sherwin Manor Nursing Home, 7350 N. Sheridan (Area D)
Tuesday, Dec. 1st, St. Ignatius Church Parish Center, 6559 N. Glenwood (Area H)
Wednesday, Dec. 2nd, Gale Academy, 1631 W. Jonquil (Area A)
Thursday, Dec. 3rd, United Church of Rogers Park, 1545 W. Morse, 3rd Floor (Area G)